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6 Ridiculous Myths About the Middle Ages Everyone Believes

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6 Ridiculous Myths About the Middle Ages Everyone Believes

By:Steve Kolenberg January 13, 2013 888,443 views

With grateful thanks to

When you think of the Middle Ages, chances are you picture gallant knights sitting astride brilliant destriers galloping through a sea of plagues, ignorance, and filth. And you can hardly be blamed for that, when everything from the movies you watch to your high school history teacher (who was mainly the football coach) has told you that …

#6. Scientific Progress Was Dead


The Myth:

They call it the Dark Ages for a reason. Any scientist who dared to actually study the universe would be shut down by the Catholic church, which thought all that bullshit was immoral and that the Bible was all the learnin’ anybody could possibly need. They even thought the Earth was flat, for crying out loud.

“No, we can’t cross the ocean there, don’t you see that sea monster in the way?”

The Reality:

Aside from the fact that, as we’ve already explained, most people in the Middle Ages did not think the Earth was flat, the church wasn’t responsible for killing science — to the contrary, it was largely responsible for saving it.

After the barbarians invaded Europe and Rome went the way of the dinosaurs, the Catholic church was the last remaining aspect of Roman culture in Western Europe. The church went about setting up monasteries across Europe, and along with the monks came the monks’ massive libraries. Monks were just about the only educated people in the early Middle Ages, and pretty much everything we know about this entire time period was written by them.

“Look, the monks’ scroll clearly says that all monks had 12-inch dongs, so it must be true.”

As time went on, the church stepped it up a notch and started establishing universities to foster the preservation of knowledge. You may have heard of a few of them: Oxford, Cambridge, and the University of Paris (not to mention pretty much every other top school in Europe). At these universities, students studied more than most college kids do today, with an average bachelor’s degree taking up to seven years to earn, and a master’s or doctorate taking several more. The universities were also big on translation, having successfully translated into Latin guys like Aristotle and Plato, which effectively made the Renaissance possible. All of this despite the fact that beer bong technology was still in its infancy.

Around the same time as universities were popping up all over Europe, the Crusades were bringing Europeans into contact with advanced Muslim ideas of science and technology. Ideas like the compass and the astrolabe came to the West via Muslim Spain and came in handy during the later Age of Exploration. Italian merchants came back from trading in North Africa and gave us another innovation: Arabic numerals.

Pfft, like people are going to want to learn a whole other set of characters.

Medicine also made massive advances thanks to the university system. Contrary to popular belief, dissection of corpses was actually fine and dandy with the church, and medieval universities often did it in the basement (OK, so maybe it wasn’t totally fine and dandy). By the 14th century, there were functional hospitals, and doctors had learned how to use antiseptic when lopping off people’s body parts.

And that’s a good thing, because everybody was encrusted in filth back then, right? Well, about that …

#5. Everyone Smelled Like Complete Shit


The Myth:

Even if we know nothing else about the Middle Ages, we know that everyone was absolutely filthy. Medieval peasants looked like something straight out of Monty Python and the Holy Grail …

But not nearly as whimsical.

… and the upper classes were hardly any cleaner. People back then took baths with about the same frequency as we go to the dentist — a couple of times a year for the obsessive ones. Just getting to a person’s genitals required a stiff wire brush and a chisel.

The Reality:

They were way into bathing for much of the Middle Ages. Maybe too into it — they continued the Roman practice where a bunch of strangers got naked together for communal bathing, and most towns and even villages in medieval Germany had a communal bath where craftsmen would hang out and bathe together after a hard day’s work. Just sitting there, probably washing each other’s dongs while having loud conversations about how incredibly not gay they were.

“You see my new pickup wagon with a bunch of tools in the back?”

Meanwhile, not only was it common for medieval folk to wash their hands before and after eating, it was also customary to offer to bathe with guests when they entered your home, something The Man has repeatedly reminded us is no longer acceptable in modern society. Medieval demand for soap (usually made from animal fats, with a variety of oils and salts added) was so great that by the 13th century, soap was being made on an almost industrial scale in Britain, Italy, Spain, and France.

So why do we picture everyone as wallowing in their own filth back then? Well, things changed all at once. If only an act of God could change Europe’s epic bathing culture, they got one — in the mid-14th century, the Black Death strolled up and kicked Europe right in the teeth with its pestilence boot. Suddenly, smart people were telling the previously washed masses that bathing was a surefire way to open your body’s pores and invite in all the bad spirits or gremlins or whatever (they weren’t too savvy on what caused illness back then).

“The academy is divided down the middle, between Jews and forest pixies.”

As a result, by the early modern period of history, bathing had become obsolete. So it’s entirely possible that George Washington rated higher than Richard the Lionheart on the smell-like-shit-o-meter.

#4. Knights Were Honorable, Chivalrous Warriors


The Myth:

Knights were gallant and brave warriors, charging into battle to slay the dragon and rescue the fair maiden.

The Reality:

Knights often had less in common with this:

 Wikimedia Commons
“We shall die for the glory of our randomly assigned piece of land!”

And more in common with this:

 Johan Ordonez/NBC News
Wessex side.

Remember, knights were professional warriors, and when there wasn’t a war to fight, they had to findsomething to do with their war-boners. Most of these guys were relatively young and didn’t have Call of Duty to satisfy their violent urges, so they tended to take it out on the local population. Toward the 11th century, many of the local lords started bickering over who would get a slice of the Holy Roman pie that Charlemagne baked, and the knights were at the forefront of these petty wars. These “wars” were less Braveheart-style epic battles and more knights rolling up into villages and slaughtering everybody.

The church tried to curb these conflicts, because frankly, they were nasty and threatened the stability of everything. First they tried to gather up all the knights and shake various body parts of dead saints at them, but when that didn’t work, the Pope called the First Crusade and exported all these assholes to the Middle East, where they chivalrously ate babies and massacred the entire population of Jerusalem.

 Wikimedia Commons
“Hey, the Pope said we wouldn’t go to hell! No backsies!”

Later attempts were made to get these young ‘uns under control, one being the chivalric code that was adopted around the 13th century. Examples like Sir Lancelot and Edward the Black Prince were raised to show knights how to behave in battle and in peace. Knights were encouraged to “defend the weak,” but “the weak” was commonly interpreted as noble women and children, not peasants. So noble-on-noble violence may have decreased, but it was still totally cool for knights to kill and rape peasants, since, like those beers you had for breakfast, they didn’t really count.

#3. Everyone Was a Prude


The Myth:

Casual sex, and even knowledge of how sex works, is a modern invention. During the heavily religious Dark Ages, sex was strictly forbidden outside of marriage, and every single person of consenting age (a term that was very loosely defined back then) led a life that was a never-ending squelch through a pool of their own sexual repression.

The Reality:

You know those really goofy-looking shoes that men wore back then? The extra pointy ones, like something an elf would wear?

We’d still wear those over Heelys.

Well, those points are called poulaines, and apparently they were meant to directly represent the wearer’s dong. And in a revelation that will come as absolutely no surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the intricate relationship between a man and his wang, these points were sometimes so big that dudes couldn’t walk up stairs. Good thing they were all wearing those elaborate codpieces to protect their actual dongs when their shoe-dongs tripped them up.

And the sexy didn’t stop with their fashion. Prostitution was a big friggin’ deal back then. Although technically against the teachings of the church, everyone collectively agreed that if there were no hookers around, men would be out raping, just, everyone, because some of what you’ve heard about the Middle Ages wasn’t a myth. In most medieval cities, prostitution was completely legal yet confined to certain districts and licensed by a town’s mayor. The church even got in on this deal andlicensed some holy brothels of its very own.

“She’ll tickle your schmeckel for only a shekel!”

But let’s not leave out the married folk. Since most upper-class marriages were political arrangements and the people getting married didn’t necessarily like each other all that much, extramarital affairs were where it was at. And man, did these people get down — if you’ve ever watched a show like The Tudors and thought it was all sexed up for a modern audience, you were wrong.

One of the reasons that Eleanor of Aquitaine usurped her husband Henry II was because Henry II apparently had more mistresses than Tiger Woods. Seeing that getting in bed with the king was a good way to get ahead in life, daughters of lower nobility basically became escorts and tried to become the king’s favorite mistress, which worked out pretty well for Anne Boleyn when she married Henry VIII and became Queen of England. Worked out pretty well, that is, until she was beheaded for allegedly banging too many people who weren’t Henry VIII.

The Bible is very clear that you’re only allowed three affairs at a time.

But the whole situation was still bad news for women, right? Because women were basically property back then? Well …

#2. Women Were Treated as Cattle

  Nino Mascardi/Getty Images

The Myth:

Europe during the Middle Ages is right up there with Taliban-ruled Afghanistan in the Top 5 Places It Would Suck to Have a Vagina. Women were horribly oppressed and were treated as second-class citizens — their only responsibilities were to cook, clean, and squeeze out (male) babies on demand.

“Sweetie? You get that new male heir I asked for? It’s been like an hour …”

The Reality:

Up until about 200 years ago, Europe was a largely agricultural society. And the funny thing about back-breaking and often dehumanizing labor is that it has a weird way of equalizing people — when literally every member of the family is out busting his or her ass every morning just to fend off the very real threat of starvation, gender roles and sexism suddenly don’t seem all that important. Thus, when it came to household responsibilities, women and men were equals by default, since the women had to do all the same bullshit their husbands had to do. So should time travel ever become a thing, never tell a medieval peasant woman to go make her husband a sandwich, because she’ll probably cackle her plague-breath all up in your face before snapping you in half like a twig.

And the story wasn’t much different in the cities. If dad owned a shop or a tavern, his daughters were the ones helping out. Sometimes a daughter would actually take over the family business and run it herself if her father became unable to, something that wouldn’t really happen until much later in modern society. Women also generally ran the taverns in the Middle Ages — in fact, women once ran England’s entire beer industry. It’s not quite clear when that changed, but we have to assume that at some point men realized they had allowed women to become all powerful by letting them be in charge of both beer and vaginas.

“Well, at least we still have sports … Oh Christ!”

Women who weren’t busy running taverns or growing crops to survive could join a convent, which may not sound all that impressive until you realize that this gave them access to education in a time when that was extremely rare — nuns could read and write in an age when the most powerful kings couldn’t. And if they stuck with it long enough to become the abbess of a convent, they were in a position of power very similar to a male lord — only, you know, maybe even a little higher, seeing as how they technically reported directly to the King of Kings and all.

#1. Life Was Horrible and Everyone Died Young


The Myth:

Life in the Middle Ages has famously been described as “nasty, brutish, and short.” The food sucked, the housing sucked, the work sucked, everything sucked. Luckily, people didn’t have to endure all the perpetual suck for long, since they only lived to see 35, tops. Today, if you see a character older than 60 in a movie set in the Middle Ages, he’s also a wizard.

“A wizard dies precisely when he means to. Or when the giant eagles show up late.”

The Reality:

As for lives being short, while it may be true that the average life expectancy was 35 years, we tend to overlook one very important word there: average. Infant mortality was brutal, since vaccinations against childhood diseases didn’t exist yet and medicine was still in its “Here, chew on this root and stick some leeches on your junk” stage. So that skews the average way down. But if a male living in 1500 managed to see his 21st birthday, he was expected to live around 50 more years from that point.

The typical perception of the medieval peasant is someone breaking his back doing nonstop labor for lords who gaveth not a single fuck as to his well-being, but your typical peasant actually workedaround eight hours a day, with long breaks for meals and naps. And did you know that peasants got more time off than you do? Sunday was an automatic day off, and when you factor in long vacations at Christmas, Easter, and midsummer, plus all the saints’ days (considering the fact that the Catholic church has even more saints than it does scandals), and medieval peasants were on holiday for a goodone-third of the year. And since much of that time was accompanied by epic festivals, they spent it getting shitfaced on various varieties of medieval ale. So not only did they work less than you, they also partied harder.

“Hey, you guys coming to the after-orgy?”

And it turns out they weren’t exactly living lives of “bare bones subsistence,” either. By the late Middle Ages, your average English worker was making around $1,000 a year — significantly better than people in some of today’s poorer nations. And while no one will argue that that level of income would provide lifestyles that would inspire rap song lyrics, it did allow them to afford varied diets, the occasional luxury item, and plenty of ale to cover all the partying they were virtually required to do. Hell, you could get a rap song out of that, right? Quick, what rhymes with “dick shoes”?

For more things you’re totally wrong about, check out 6 Things from History Everyone Pictures Incorrectly and The 5 Most Overrated Jobs of All Time.

Glenribbeen Eco Lodge

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Glenribbeen Eco Lodge is happy to announce that we have a special offer for all members of the British NHS.


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Pig on a Spit at the Towers

August 19, 2012 all day – The Towers, Ballysaggertmór, Lismore Co Waterford Pig on a Spit – a fund-raiser for the KMD-V Waterford. A new community group to help promote the Southside of the Knockmealdowns for sustainable tourism and citizen health. Organized by Peter O’Connor | Type: bbq, nature, walks, ‘n’, talks, and, medieval, fancy-dress.

See Heritage Week for more details.


Glenribbeen (S)chic

t’Ante Beth settles with newborn. Renamed Kippie.


I got into a ‘discussion’ with someone who insists that the Irish are a Celtic nation – which flies in the face of language and DNA tests. In fact I seem to be arguing a lot about it recently even with my fellow Irish who have swallowed the British spin without question. In fairness so did Pearce, Yeats and many more. However modern science has now proved the Celtic-family crowd to be a rabble – literally.

There’s a great radio-interview with Bob Quinn the first person to direct a feature-length Irish language film on the subject. Very interesting and very clear – without hyperbole and with very few figures to worry about.

Celts never settled in Ireland in any numbers. There is simply NO evidence of Celtic art or workmanship on the Island of Ireland except what was brought in by way of trade. Recent DNA finding’s of Trinity College’s microbiology dept. and a book by Oxford scholarship (Celtic from the West. edited by Barry Cunliffe and John T. Koch)  have proven beyond any doubt that our common Y chromosome comes from Spain & Portugal and before that North Africa. Celts were mid-European peoples and not as dark as the Irish. We would have traded just as much with Spain/Portugal as with France or Britain. Most of our dance may come from flamenco and our early art has far more in common with Arabic than anywhere else. Our music particularly Sean Nós is readily acknowledged as ‘theirs’ by people in W Turkey and countries such as Iran and Iraq.
The whole interview and some great examples of Sean Nós. He brings in art, music, dance, sailing boats (pucáns) and more

Shows how the Irish language is closer to Berber, Arabic and Hebrew as evidenced by the fact that in Irish (and English as we use it) the verb comes first. e.g. I’m after being to the doctor ! When I sailed on the Nile in a traditional boat I did so as if it were a hooker (using my back and leg muscles to steer) and was rewarded with a knowing grin from the captain. It’s another link. According to Bob Quinn “When North African universities develop their genetic analysis I think we’ll find a lot of distant cousins down there”.

We Irish were ‘brought into the Celtic family’ by a Welsh spin-doctor Edward Ward Lhuyd (lloyd) 1660 – 1709  that ‘invented’ the term.  (Wikipedia;  In 1707, having been assisted in his research by fellow Welsh scholar Moses Williams, he published the first volume of Archaeologia Britannica: an Account of the Languages, Histories and Customs of Great Britain, from Travels through Wales, Cornwall, Bas-Bretagne, Ireland and Scotland. Lhuyd noted the similarity between the two Celtic language families: Brythonic or P–Celtic (Breton, Cornish and Welsh); and Goidelic or Q–Celtic (Irish, Manx and Scottish Gaelic). He argued that the Brythonic languages originated in Gaul (France), and that the Goidelic languages originated in the Iberian Peninsula. Lhuyd concluded that as the languages had been of Celtic origin, the people who spoke those languages were Celts. From the 18th century, the peoples of Brittany, Cornwall, Ireland, Isle of Man, Scotland and Wales were known increasingly as Celts, and are regarded as the modern Celtic nations today).

“Celtic Nations” arose again in a Queen Victoria government attempt in late 1870’s to try fuse Britain and Ireland as a whole. The term Gael/Gaelic was frowned upon as it resembled Gaul (French) too much. It was at a time when the English were really trying to show a more cohesive face to the world – as they by then straddled it. Ironically it argues diametrically against the writings of Edmund Spenser who wrote (when not penning The Faery Queen) that all (clan) heads of Irish families should be killed and the O and Mc/Mac be denied to any Irish name. Spencer lived in Lismore Castle at the time . He married Lady Cork and became the ancestor of Dianne Spenser mother of the two current English princes .

Lhuyd. Edward;

WHO ARE THE IRISH? :   “The Atlantean Irish”

THE Atlantean Irish book and films show that the island of Ireland was never a remote outpost on the fringes of Europe. From the hunters and fishermen of the megalithic age to the crooked investors, carpetbaggers and drug smugglers of the modern age, from Eastern monks fleeing persecution to 19th century prosletysers, from the Mediterranean to the Baltic, the island has always been regarded as a lucrative trading post and a desirable residence.

(Supported by the Irish Heritage Council – NEWLY REVISED AND REPRINTED 2011)

Available from Lilliput Press, Brandon Books and bookshops.


Available from Lilliput Press, Brandon Books and bookshops.

Time Management Course – Rob Dawson

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From Time Management Course by Rob Rawson ;

Working on a project I found this great series of papers – of course there are (paid) follow-ups to this but here’s enough to interest some folk …

Lesson 1
During this free 10 lesson course you are going to totally change your effectiveness at work or your studies. You will find yourself getting a lot more done, with less stress. And you will have more time to enjoy the things you want to enjoy. It’s not about working harder, it’s about working smarter and being more effective. Getting more done in less time.Ok, so let’s get started with the first lesson. Let’s get straight to the most effective method of getting more done. It’s really simple.All you need to do is make a list of the things you want to accomplish for the next day, a maximum of 8 things. Then each day you work starting with number 1 on the list, then move to number 2 and further down the list. You’ve probably read this technique already on the website, or somewhere else, but are you doing it?Do it now. Stop. Write down the top 8 things – MAXIMUM of 8! – that you want to do today (or tomorrow if you’re reading this late at night).Finished? Great.Ok now take a look at the top item on your list. What is it? Estimate how long it will take you to complete this item. Is there anything preventing you from working on this item today? If something is preventing you from working on it today, then remove it from your list! Only include items that you can work on today.

Are you immediately clear what you need to do to accomplish this item? Yes? Great, if you’re not clear, take some time to think about it and figure out what is the next step towards your outcome in this area.

Now start working on item 1 on the list! Keep writing this list down every day and working from the list. Make sure always to put the most important item first.

That’s it for the first lesson. Follow the lessons in the e-course and you will be on track to getting more done each day with less effort.

Lesson 2
Each day for the last few days you should have been writing down the top 8 things you want to do for the day, and working from top to the bottom on this list. Have you been doing this?If not, get started now as this is a foundation for the course. If you didn’t do it, let’s make it even more simple. Write down only the top TWO things you want to do today. Two items only. How much easier can it get!Ok, make sure you do this. If you already have your list of 8 items, then select only the top 2 most important items.How do you know if something is important? Will it affect the important outcomes that you want in life in a powerful way? Usually there are only a few things you must do to achieve an important outcome. The other stuff is busy work. So the top items on your list should be really contributing towards your future plans and dreams. Also, if there is something that you are avoiding doing, but is important to you, consider putting that as number one on your list.Now stop and think what are you doing for the rest of today (if you’re reading this email late at night think about what you will do tomorrow). Plan exactly what time you are going to spend on these top 2 items. Think what time (exactly) will you start and for how long will you work on them. Is that enough time to get them done? Now write down the start time (for example 3:40pm) and the length of time you will work on these two items (for example 2 hours). Now go to your mobile phone, watch or computer and set an alarm that will sound at 3:40 pm to remind you to start on these tasks.Ok that’s it for today! You won’t need to do this exercise of setting an alarm every day (unless you want to!) This is just to get started and make sure you have a taste of success.

Rob Rawson


Lesson 3
Now you should be making a list of the top 1 to 8 things you want to do each day and working through this list every day. If you haven’t been doing it, recommit to doing this every day, and make the list right now.

Ok, now, let’s look at how can you have more peace in your life even when you have A LOT to do! The first step to being peaceful is for you to get everything that’s on your mind down on paper.

So, we are going to start now with an exercise where you write down everything that is on your mind, every incomplete task or actually EVERYTHING that you are thinking about. This is part of the methodology of David Allen in Getting Things Done.

Why is this important? You probably have dozens of things that are going through your head that you know you should probably do, but you haven’t properly thought about this list of stuff. Unless you write it down and decide clearly on next steps, it’s going to cause some stress and prevent you from being peaceful.

First let’s set a time to do this. It might take 2 hours to do it properly so you are going to have to set aside some significant time. Think when can you do it? If now, great, if not now, think what day within the next 2 days you can do it, and what specific time?

Have a specific time and day? Ok great. Now write it in your diary and set a reminder on your calendar on your phone to go off at that specific time and date. If you don’t know how to set a reminder, investigate it now. There is for example a way on Gmail to set a reminder of when you should do something and then email you. Or your phone probably has a way to ring at a specific time in the future. Whatever system you have that will make sure you don’t forget to do it at that exact time in the future. Of course if you’re doing it now, you don’t need the reminder!

Now what do you need to do? Simple. Write a list of everything that you need to do.

  • At work. At home. In your garden, in your office.
  • Is there anything you want to organize?
  • Anything you want to clean up or throw away?
  • Any person you need to speak to?
  • Bills to pay?
  • Mails to read or sort through?

Now that you have all those “to dos” off your mind, let’s move to some more difficult stuff. Is there anything you are thinking about a lot.

  • A problem with your relationship?
  • An issue with your boss?
  • Maybe you don’t like your job?
  • You are thinking about going on a holiday next year?
  • You want to move to a different city but haven’t done anything about it?
  • You think you look too big in your jeans and need to lose weight.

When I say write down everything that’s on your mind I mean EVERYTHING. Don’t worry you don’t have to show this list to anyone unless you choose to!

This process is very powerful. Once you have all this stuff off your mind, it’s the first step to being not only more productive, but also more peaceful whilst getting more done. Remember the course is not just about getting more done, it’s also about being more peaceful. If you do this you will be taking the first step to having less stress and worrying less about all the things you need to do.

So keep going until you have everything written down that has been on your mind. When it’s complete, put away your list and get ready for the next lesson.

In the mean time keep writing down each day the top few things (8 or less) that you want to do and continue working from this list.

Lesson 4

So you should have your list of everything that has been on your mind. Now it’s time to start organizing the list so that you can get it off your mind, and start getting to a place of peace and relaxation in your life. One of the funny things that you will notice is that the things you feel most stressed about are usually the things that you are just thinking about a lot but not doing anything about! Once you start taking action, the stress starts to disappear.This organizing process can take some time. It’s best to give yourself 2 hours for this process. So if you don’t have 2 hours right now, think when in the next 2 days you will have time to do this. Write it down in your diary, and set a reminder to go off at the exact time you plan to do this. Make sure to plan the EXACT time that you plan to start on this organizing task.So take a look at the list, and now we will consider each item with the following two questions:
“What outcome do I want here?”
“What is the next action step I need to take towards this outcome?”Sometimes it will be easy. For example you want to write a book but you haven’t started, the outcome is a book you are proud of and the next action step is to go to the library and research on the topic of the book.

So as soon as you come up with the next action step, you can tick off that item on the list and start a new list that is JUST actions steps. We will call this the “action steps” list. These actions should take you less than 1 day to complete usually. If the action will take more than 1 day to finish, please break it down into a smaller action step that will take you less than 1 day to complete.

Now work through your list of everything on your mind and tick off all the items you can as you think of the next action step. Sometimes if it’s something simple, you might not need to change it and can just move it to the “action step” list. For example “read my mail” is really an action step in itself and you don’t need to break it down further.

If you get stuck on an item for more than 2 minutes (you are not sure what is the next action step) then set it aside for a minute and move on to the other items on your list.

Now when you are finished you should have a list of “action steps” and then a few items where you are not sure what the next action step is or maybe not even sure what the outcome is.

Let’s work a bit more on these items where you are “not quite sure”. Consider each item and think, “What is the outcome I would like here?”. Try to write this outcome in positive language. For example, let’s say you wrote down “my partner keeps nagging at me”, then don’t write down the outcome “my partner stops nagging at me”. Instead write down, “I had a wonderful conversation with my partner”.

Now once you have the outcome, think what is the next step you need to take towards this outcome. The next action step should again be something you can do in 1 day or less. If not break it down into smaller steps. Is there anything stopping you from taking this action today? If so there must be another action that comes first, and write that down as the next action step. An action step is obviously something that you can do, and not something that is dependent on another person.

Still stuck with some of these items? The next step is to find someone who can help you to come up with some ideas. You will want to ask a friend who has success in the area that you have the issue with, and see what they recommend. If you can’t find someone who has success in that area, look for a book that is from someone that had the same issue as you and has succeeded in that area of life. In fact that can be your next action step, “Contact my friend” or “Read xyz book”.

The final step! Ok now we are ready with our list of next action steps. Take this list and select the top 4-8 items only to work on tomorrow. Think what is most important to you in your life, and which actions will help you most in this important area of your life.

Now you are ready with your list of things to work on today! (Or tomorrow if you are doing this exercise at the end of the day). Now imagine yourself completing the first action on the list. See exactly what you are doing, are you sitting, reading, talking to someone. Imagine exactly what you are doing to complete this action. If you can’t imagine exactly what you need to do then something is wrong! Think through this action step again and get more specific about what you actually need to do. For example if you’re action step is “find a way to get my book published” … you have a problem! That’s not an action step. It’s too vague, not specific enough. Instead an action step could be, “Spend 30 minutes online researching self publishing methods”. Or, “Check the yellow pages and online and make a list of all publishers that specialize in my niche”.


Lesson 5

Ok, we’re really making some progress! What you have done so far is to every day make a list of the top few things you are focusing for the day and work from this list. We also made a list of everything that is on your mind, and using this complete list organized it into a list of just action steps.You should be continuing to make a list of your top few things you want to do for the day, if you’re not, don’t beat yourself up! Just start doing it (make the list right now).Today is elimination and simplification day.The goal for today is to eliminate unnecessary steps in what you are doing and eliminate whole sections of your life that are not really that important.

So here’s the exercise: Think of something you can eliminate from each of these categories.

First what is something you do many days and you probably could stop doing because it’s not really that important to you. Here are some ideas: watching the news on television, taking unnecessary trips in your car, doing your washing (could someone else do it?). Once you have determined what it is, take a dramatic step that will indicate that you are eliminating this from your life, for example throw out your television! Yes, it’s nice to say “I’m not going to watch so much TV” but the reality is that you probably will keep doing so unless you take some drastic action.

Second is there an entire area of your life that you could eliminate? Is there something that you are kind of doing out of obligation, but you don’t feel that it’s really that important.

Third take a look at all the travel time in your life and look at how to make this time either more efficient or eliminate it. What can you do whilst travelling? (for example can you make business calls or get in contact with your friends). Also, how can you eliminate some of the travel in your life. For example can you visit the supermarket only once per week with a list of everything you need for the week.

Lastly, think what is causing you the most stress in your life right now, and ask yourself what could you eliminate from your life or from your expectations about how life should be that will reduce or eliminate your stress.

Lesson 6

Email! Ahhhhhhh!Do you have an email problem of some kind? If not you’re one of the lucky few. Email addiction and inefficient handling of email some of the most common time management problems.

So let’s get focused on how to handle emails faster, more effectively and basically spend less time reading your emails and achieve the same overall outcome.

Step 1: Filter your email as much as possible. Unsubscribe from anything you don’t need, and the stuff you might read occasionally filter it into a folder “to read later”.

Step 2: Short replies. Reply in 3 sentences wherever possible. This decreases the amount of responses you get and significantly decreases your time in responding to emails. Emails are NOT for conversations. If you need to have a conversation schedule time for a phone call. Email should be treated more like a text message, short, sweet and to the point.

Step 3: Educate your friends and family about sending you less emails and shorter emails! This is a hard one, but using a site like: is very helpful.

Step 4: Handle each email once. This means you look at the email, you decide what to do, you delete it, reply, archive, put it on your to do list, but you don’t go “oh I’ll handle that later”. This time when you procrastinate and think, “Oh yeah do it later” adds up to a significant amount of time.

Step 5: Inbox Zero. Ok this is a really hard one for a lot of people, but it’s basically the best way to accomplish Step 4. In order to make sure you handle your emails only one time, you deal with the email immediately and then you get it OUT of your inbox where it’s not staring at you any more, it’s out of your sight!

Step 6: Batch process your emails. Checking your emails dozens of times each day and handling a few emails each time is a very inefficient way to handle email. Each time you check your emails it interrupts what you were doing previously. Instead batch your emails so that you handle them at one time, perhaps setting aside 20 minutes to review all of them. Get them all completely handled and then move on to your next task.

Ok, that’s enough for today. So the next step is to go through your inbox with all these things in mind, and clear your inbox to zero.

If you’re inbox is in a terrible state (hundreds of emails you haven’t dealt with but think there might be something that need to take action on), then might need to quarantine your current inbox full of stuff you haven’t dealt with. If there really are too many emails in there, take everything out of your inbox and dump it into a “deal with later folder. Now make a commitment that whenever you check your emails, you will process all emails until you are back to zero mails in your inbox

Final Lesson

Are you going with your task list? In this lesson we are going to take a look at your task “lists” and find out how to organize them better so that you have total clarity about what you need to take action on.There are several common mistakes that you can make with your task list. The first is to have a bunch of things on your list that you can’t really action right now. When you have those items on your list, your mind starts to go numb to the list because you look at your list and you don’t have a clear idea of what to actually do about the “task”. In fact it’s not really a task, it’s more of a thought that you wrote down and did not determine what you actually need to do about it. For example you write on your task list “Get more clients”, but you haven’t thought about how exactly you are going to do this. Instead you should think clearly about what is the actual action step for example, “Review my old business cards to see who I could contact about referrals”. Or “Brainstorm 5 ideas of how to get more clients”. These are specific actions that you know that you can take action on. You have clarity about what you actually need to do. This makes your “to do” effective as you have total clarity about what it is that you actually need to do.Another reason you might find that you can’t really take action on an item is that you are waiting for someone else. In this case the item should NOT be in your to do list. Instead, make a separate list of “waiting on” items where you are waiting for the other person to do something before you can take the next action. Then you can review this “waiting on” list and follow up with the relevant person when appropriate.So let’s review your task list right now and see if there are any items that you are not totally clear about. Review each item on your list with the following questions:

  1. What is my outcome? What do I want in this situation?
  2. What is the next action step I need to take?
  3. Is my next action something I can accomplish in less than 1 day? If not break it down into smaller steps. The 1 day figure is not set in stone, you can determine what is right for you, but if you have tasks that take more than 1 day it can start to feel all too hard. Easier to break it down to smaller chunks.
  4. Am I waiting on someone to take action before I can start? If this is something where you are waiting on someone else, put it on your “waiting on” list.
  5. Is this something you want to do generally in the next few weeks or is it something to do later in your life when you can get around to it? If it’s something to do later, create a list for “later” or “someday” and put the item in this list.
  6. Is it something to do on a specific date in the future? If so take it off your to do list and put it on your calendar on that date.

Make sure to review and update all these lists regularly, preferably weekly.

Your to do list should include only items that you are able to work on this week. Anything else should go on another list. Include ONLY items that you actually can do. When you have lists of mixed items, some where you are waiting on another person, some to do later it creates stress and confusion. Every time you look at your to do list you are not quite sure what to do about all the stuff on the list. Instead it’s so much more clear and peaceful to only have “to do” items on your “to do” list.

So that’s it for the time management course but you will now continue receive new time management tips twice per week in your email inbox. Please forward this course to your friends, it’s free after all! And let us know how you this material helped you in your life, and how you applied it, plus any other suggestions you have for improving time management.

The Secret to Dealing With Difficult People.

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The Secret to Dealing With Difficult People: It’s About You

Wednesday October 12, 2011  | Comments (119)


Do you have someone at work who consistently triggers you? Doesn’t listen? Takes credit for work you’ve done? Wastes your time with trivial issues? Acts like a know-it-all? Can only talk about himself? Constantly criticizes?

Our core emotional need is to feel valued and valuable. When we don’t, it’s deeply unsettling, a challenge to our sense of equilibrium, security, and well-being. At the most primal level, it can feel like a threat to our very survival.

This is especially true when the person you’re struggling with is your boss. The problem is that being in charge of other people rarely bring out the best in us.

“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” Lord Acton said way back in 1887. “There is no worse heresy than the office that sanctifies the holder of it.”

The easy default when we feel devalued is to the role of victim, and it’s a seductive pull. Blaming others for how we’re feeling is a form of self-protection. Whatever is going wrong isn’t our fault. By off loading responsibility, we feel better in the short-term.

The problem with being a victim is that you cede the power to influence your circumstances. The painful truth when it comes to the people who trigger you is this: You’re not going to change them. The only person you have the possibility of changing is yourself.

Each of us has a default lens through which we see the world. We call it reality, but in fact it’s a selective filter. We have the power, to view the world through other lenses. There are three worth trying on when you find yourself defaulting to negative emotions.

The Lens of Realistic Optimism. Using this lens requires asking yourself two simple questions when you feel you’re being treated badly or unfairly. The first one is “What are the facts in this situation?” The second is, “What’s the story I’m telling myself about those facts?”

Making this distinction allows you to stand outside your experience, rather than simply reacting to it. It also opens the possibility that whatever story you’re currently telling yourself isn’t necessarily the only way to look at your situation.

Realistic optimism, a term coined by the psychologist Sandra Schneider, means telling yourself the most hopeful and empowering story about a given circumstance without subverting the facts. It’s about moving beyond your default reaction to feeling under attack, and exploring whether there is an alternative way of viewing the situation that would ultimately serve you better. Another way of discovering an alternative is to ask yourself “How would I act here at my best?”

The Reverse Lens. This lens requires viewing the world through the lens of the person who triggered you. It doesn’t mean sacrificing your own point of view but rather widening your perspective.

It’s nearly certain that the person you perceive as difficult views the situation differently than you do. With the reverse lens, you ask yourself, “What is this person feeling, and in what ways does that make sense?” Or put more starkly: “Where’s my responsibility in all this?”

Counterintuitively, one of the most powerful ways to reclaim your value, when it feels threatened, is to find a way to appreciate the perspective of the person you feel devalued by. It’s called empathy.

Just as you do, others tend to behave better when they feel seen and valued — especially since insecurity is what usually prompts them to act badly in the first place.

The Long Lens. Sometimes your worst fears about another person turn out to be true. He is someone who bullies you unreasonably and seeing it from his perspective doesn’t help. She does invariably take credit for your work.

When your current circumstances are incontrovertibly bad, the long lens provides a way of looking beyond the present to imagine a better future. Begin with this question: “Regardless of how I feel about what’s happening right now, how can I grow and learn from this experience?”

How many times has something that felt terrible to you in the moment turned out to be trivial several months later, or actually led you to an important opportunity or a positive new direction?

My last boss fired me. It felt awful at the time, but it also pushed me way out of my comfort zone, which is where it turned out I needed to go.

Looking back, the story I tell myself is that for all his deficiencies, I learned a lot from that boss, and it all serves me well today. I can understand, from his point of view, why he found me difficult as an employee, without feeling devalued. Most important, getting fired prompted me to make a decision — founding the company I now run — that has brought me more happiness than any other work I’ve ever done.

More blog posts by Tony Schwartz